Hate Speech, Violence Against Speakers / Impunity
Hitesh Verma v. State of Uttarakhand
Closed Mixed Outcome
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The Saint Petersburg City Court upheld the conviction and imprisonment of Mr. Sergei Kosyrev for the murder of a journalist (Mr. Dmitry Tsilikin). The two men met online, and the murder happened after Mr. Tsilikin invited Mr. Kosyrev over to his home. The authorities subsequently discovered that Mr. Kosyrev self-identified as a far-right crusader against homosexuals. Despite evidence of the murder being a hate crime, the prosecutors charged Mr. Kosyrev with “homicide during a domestic dispute”, which carried a much lighter penalty. Mr. Kosyrev pled guilty and a lower instance court sentenced him to eight and a half years in a maximum security prison colony in May 2017, which was upheld on appeal.
Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.
Mr. Dmitry Tsilikin was a well-known journalist in Saint Petersburg. He wrote for a newspaper based in the city called Chas-Pik (Peak Hour). He also produced stories for TV and radio stations, as well as a range of regional and national publications.
On March 27, 2016, the 54-year-old journalist invited Mr. Sergei Kosyrev, a 21-year-old student whom he met online, to his apartment. That evening, Mr. Kosyrev stabbed Mr. Tsilikin to death. Mr. Kosyrev then took Mr. Tsilikin’s laptop, telephone, and keys. He later left the apartment, locking it from the outside.
On March 30, 2016, Mr. Tsilikin’s sister reported the journalist as missing. The next day, his body was discovered in the apartment.
On April 7, 2016, criminal investigators detained Mr. Kosyrev who quickly confessed to the crime. He was a far-right radical and nationalist. On social media, he re-posted statements such as “[m]y rifle is my best friend. It is my life and I need to use it.” His online photo album contained pictures of Hitler and Anders Breivik (a Norwegian far-right terrorist who murdered 77 people in 2011).
Additionally, Mr. Kosyrev explained to criminal investigators that he was on a crusade against homosexuals and referred to himself as chistlishik (meaning “cleaner”). He confessed that the murder of Mr. Tsilikin was premeditated and grounded in his hatred of homosexuals.
On September 28, 2016, the Investigative Committee of Saint Petersburg concluded their investigation into Mr. Tsilikin’s murder. Despite evidence that the killing was a hate crime, the Prosecutor General charged Mr. Kosyrev with “homicide during a domestic dispute” (Article 105.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). This crime was punishable with a term of imprisonment between 6 and 15 years.
Days later, over 5,000 individuals (including journalists, artists, designers, and even politicians) submitted a petition to the Prosecutor General of Saint Petersburg, demanding that he charge Mr. Kosyrev with murder on the grounds of political or ideological hatred under Article 105.2(l) of the Russian Criminal Code. This crime carried a term of imprisonment of between 8 and 20 years.
Despite this public pressure, the Prosecutor General proceeded with the initial charges and submitted the case for judicial review on October 13, 2016.
On May 30, 2017, the Kalinisk Court of Saint Petersburg found Mr. Kosyrev guilty of murder under Article 105(1) of the Russian Criminal Code and robbery under Article 158 of the Russian Criminal Code. He was sentenced to eight and a half years in a maximum security prison colony. Mr. Kosyrev appealed the decision on the basis that the Kalinsk Court committed a range of grave procedural violations and requested a re-trial.
On September 7, 2017, the Saint Petersburg City Court (Court) denied the appeal. First, the Court upheld the conviction for murder. It found that evidence presented by the prosecutor confirmed Mr. Kosyrev’s admission that he had killed Mr. Tsilikin by stabbing him with a knife at least 14 times. Second, the Court upheld the conviction for robbery. It confirmed that after the killing, Mr. Kosyrev, with full knowledge that there were no witnesses, stole items from the victim’s apartment. Lastly, the Court dismissed Mr. Kosyrev’s arguments that the Kalininsk Court committed grave procedural violations.
The Court found that the crime had been lawfully and fully investigated, which led to Mr. Kosyrev’s prosecution and subsequent conviction.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Superficially, the judgment appears to be a positive outcome in the Russian context. On this occasion, an individual responsible for the murder of a journalist was tried and convicted for the crime. In 2017, Russia was ranked as number nine in the Committee to Protect Journalist’s Impunity Index, with nine journalists’ murders still not effectively investigated by the Russian authorities. With the little information publicly available, it is difficult to ascertain whether the investigation into the death of Mr. Tsilikin met international standards against impunity. Nevertheless, this is an example of an individual who murdered a journalist being convicted in a country that has an appalling reputation for impunity. Despite the positive aspects of the case, the outcome has a detrimental impact on the right to freedom of expression of members of the LGBTIQ community in Russia. By refusing to prosecute Mr. Kosyrev for a hate crime, the Russian authorities failed to sufficiently protect the rights of members of the LGBTIQ community against attack. Had the authorities prosecuted Mr. Kosyrev for having committed a hate crime, it would have sent a warning to other far-right radicals that the Russian government does not tolerate the killings of LGBTIQ persons. This would, in turn, have gone some way to fostering an environment in which LGBTIQ persons could express themselves more freely.
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